Posted on 16th October, 2019
There are many common diseases that have symptoms of chest tightness and shortness of breath. Because asbestos-related diseases are complex, carry a long latency period, and resemble other pulmonary disorders, a variety of diagnostic tests might be needed to help identify the accurate diagnosis. Receiving a correct diagnosis is crucial for your prognosis and for recovering the financial compensation you deserve. For a veteran with a history of asbestos exposure, even the mildest symptoms must be taken seriously and discussed with a specialist prior to applying for VA disability benefits. A physician will be able to perform the necessary respiratory function tests and provide you with thorough documentation of your illness. Also, he/she must write a report detailing the diagnosis and its connection with asbestos exposure.
How Does VA Rate Respiratory Conditions Associated with Asbestos?
In order to be eligible for VA disability compensation for lung disease after being exposed to airborne asbestos, veterans need to prove their illness is service-connected on a direct basis.
The following three criteria are the evidence required in order to qualify for VA disability benefits:
- A current diagnosis
- Evidence of an event in service that caused the illness
- Medical evidence connecting the current condition or disability to military service
The VA Rating Schedule is designed to compensate veterans for how severely they're disabled. For each asbestos-related condition found to be service-connected, veterans get an assigned rating that represents the severity of their illness. The ratings are allocated as percentage increases, ranging from 0% to 100%. A 0% rating means the condition is service-connected, but not severe enough for veterans to receive monthly compensation. A higher disability rating indicates that the veteran has a more severe disability, and therefore receives a higher compensatory amount.
Ratings for the pulmonary disorders are based on how well the lungs take in air, absorb oxygen into the blood, and exhale left gases. Important tests that are necessary for VA ratings include:
- FEV1/FVC ratio - a calculated ratio used in the diagnosis of obstructive and restrictive lung disease, which represents the volume of air exhaled in the first second
- Diffusion capacity of the lung is a measure of how well oxygen and carbon dioxide are transferred between the lungs and the blood
- Forced vital capacity
- A flow-volume loop
Once inhaled, asbestos fibers pass through the filtering system of the airways directly into the pulmonary tissues where inflammation and scarring lead to reduced respiratory function and ultimately to developing severe pulmonary diseases. Many pulmonary conditions qualify for VA disability ratings. The most common types of respiratory conditions that the VA will consider for a disability application and their ratings include:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is rated largely on the basis of the results of lung function tests. These tests determine quantitative measures of inspiratory and expiratory flow. The lower the percentage of airflow, the higher your rating. Available ratings are 10, 30, 60 or 100%. COPD is more likely to be a permanent decision while asthma and bronchitis are going to come under review every 5-10 years.
- Chronic Bronchitis is rated based on airflow tests on your lungs and available ratings are 10, 30, 60 or 100%.
- Emphysema is rated on the basis of lung function tests and other factors such as whether you need to be on oxygen and how often. Lower results on pulmonary function tests will lead to higher ratings.
- Asthma is rated based on airflow tests plus how often you need medication and other therapy to treat it.
- Tuberculosis is rated on the basis of the results of breathing tests which measure your forced expiratory volume, as well as other lung function values. If your test results are poor enough, your tuberculosis claim will be approved.
It is relevant to note that the VA is only going to give you one rating for your lungs, which is another important reason to get an accurate diagnosis for your lung disabilities. While it is possible that you can be rated for multiple service-connected disabilities, the VA is only going to rate you for whichever provides the highest rating.
If you are suffering from a pulmonary disorder or damage to your lungs from your service in the military, we can help you get a better result from the VA on a disability claim that has been denied or poorly rated.